CLEMSON, S.C. – Jacksonville University volleyball received double-double performances from sophomore Mallory Mattingly and senior Cristina Finan to open the 2017 season with a 3-1 victory over Lamar Friday evening in the Big Orange Bash, hosted by Clemson University.
"After the first two games when they were both two-point margins, I think there were some nerves and a little tightness still going on, being the first match of the year. The setters did a good job of trying to balance the offense," said Head Coach Julie Darty.
"Our service pressure got better as the match went on and we just decided that we were hungrier than they were and we found a will to win. The tide started to turn for us, but it was a very back and forth game; you could feel the momentum and energy swings the entire time. On the bench, this is such a different team than it's ever been in my four years here [at JU]. The vibe and energy and the sense of urgency that these kids are playing with right now is really unique and special. It was a great way to start the 2017 campaign."
Mattingly led the Dolphins (1-0) with 16 kills and 13 digs, while Finan added 10 kills and 12 digs to lift Jacksonville to its first-ever win in the all-time series against the Cardinals (0-1). Freshman Hannah Marchand also made an immediate impact with 11 kills and a match-high four blocks (one solo, three assisted).
"Lamar, credit to them, they were not letting balls die and Mallory and Tina were just able to put balls away at really clutch times. Hannah Marchand came in with the smart, savvy plays; that was a great start for her college career," added Darty.
Jacksonville used a four-point rally, including two block assists from senior Olga Nushtayeva, to come within one, 12-11. A marathon rally ended with a kill from Marchand to tie the march at 17-17. A Cardinal attack error then gave Jacksonville a 20-19 lead and led by two before Lamar charged back to tie the set at 22-22. Facing the set point, Jacksonville saw kills from Mattingly and Nushtayeva to swing the game back in favor of the Dolphins. A Lamar attack error sealed the set for JU, 26-24.
Mattingly started a Dolphin rally that saw JU battle back from 11-7 down to tie the game at 12. JU and Lamar traded service errors before a timeout was called as Lamar stole a 19-15 advantage. Jacksonville's persistence paid off as the Dolphins won another marathon rally to begin a 5-1 run to knot the game at 20. JU charged back twice after being down two points at 23-21 and 24-22, but Lamar managed to slip a point past the Dolphins to take set two, 25-23, and even the match at 1-1.
Marchand and sophomore Amarrah Cooks combined for a huge block early in the set, and JU earned four-straight points – three from Marchand kills – to take a 12-11 lead. Lamar tied the game on five separate points, but the Dolphins persevered and used a 10-4 run to take the set to game point, 24-19. The Cardinals fought back with three straight points, but a kill from Mattingly sealed the game for JU, 25-22.
Finan and Mattingly combined for five of the Dolphins' first eight points as JU took an 8-4 lead early in the set. Jacksonville saw huge defensive plays with solo blocks from Marchand and Nushtayeva to send the Dolphins ahead, 18-15, before Lamar rallied back for a slim 19-18 lead. However, Jacksonville kept the Cardinals frustrated and never allowed Lamar to lead by more than one point in the set. A 4-0 Dolphin rally kept the Cardinals at bay to take the set, 25-23, and match, 3-1.
"At this level, you don't always have to play harder and hit faster and harder; you can play smart, savvy, volleyball," Darty added. "A lot of people are going to look past [Hannah] because she a little bit of an undersized middle for us, but her presence at the net with the ball touches and the blocks that she got, they were just clutch."
The Dolphins return to the court tomorrow with a 12:30 p.m. match with the host Tigers. JU will then face Bethune-Cookman to close out the weekend at 4:00 p.m.